Perceived Racism and Ambulatory Blood Pressure in African American College Students

Publication Title

Journal of Black Psychology

Publication Date


Document Type





racism, discrimination, blood pressure, ambulatory monitoring


Health Psychology | Psychology


Experiences with racial discrimination may contribute to stress-induced blood pressure (BP) elevations among African Americans. It was reported that perceived racism was associated with ambulatory BP (ABP) during waking hours. This study examined perceived racism and ABP among 40 African American college students, who completed an ABP assessment from which daytime and nighttime averages were computed. Perceived frequency of experiences with racism and racial discrimination was measured using the Perceived Racism Scale. Controlling for gender and body mass index, perceived racism in academic settings was associated with higher diastolic BP (DBP) during waking hours and nighttime sleep. Systolic BP (SBP) was unrelated to perceived racism, and perceived racism in the public realm and in statements from Whites was unrelated to ABP. Perceived racism in academic settings predicted ambulatory DBP among college students. Previous laboratory research has found stronger effects of perceived racism for DBP than SBP. The hemodynamic regulation of BP may explain this phenomenon. Future laboratory and ambulatory studies should assess the contributions of vascular resistance and cardiac output to BP elevations associated with perceived racism.